A fight is brewing over a bottled water proposal near Lake Superior

A proposal to sell and bottle water in the small northern Wisconsin community of Herbster has drawn controversy and opposition from residents, surrounding towns and a Lake Superior tribe.

A fight is brewing in northern Wisconsin over a proposal to bottle and sell water from a well near Lake Superior.

A Duluth-based owner of a startup wants to sell bottled water under the name Kristle KLR. Opponents of the plan fear allowing the business to move forward would exploit a loophole in a landmark agreement barring water diversions from the Great Lakes — and could threaten water resources in the region. 

On Thursday, a five-member appeals board in Bayfield County unanimously upheld the denial of a special land use permit for Kristle Majchrzak and Robert Glau, who seek to harvest and sell water from their property in the Town of Clover.  

Minneapolis attorney Jack Perry, who represents Glau and Majchrzak, said they will appeal the decision in Bayfield County Circuit Court.

"These people are entitled to their permit because you don't have jurisdiction," Perry told the board.

Perry argued the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has sole permitting authority over groundwater wells, including piping and storage of water from the well. He said the county could be exposed to more than $250,000 in damages and legal fees for denying the proposal.

The town’s attorney, Max Lindsey, contends the county is exercising its authority over land use. He argued the proposal doesn’t qualify for the permit because it lies in an area that is zoned for residential development and associated recreational use.

A proposal to sell and bottle water in the small northern Wisconsin community of Herbster has drawn controversy and opposition from residents, surrounding towns and a Lake Superior tribe.

"They applied for a permit that was denied, and now they're trying to confuse the issues and threaten their way through this," said Lindsey.

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